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Posts Tagged ‘JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’

OBAMA AND THE FBI: CREATING PRESIDENT TRUMP–PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 10, 2019 at 12:08 am

There were solid grounds for the Obama Justice Department to indict Donald Trump or invalidate the results of the 2016 election. Yet no action was taken.

Case #4: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate. 

In July, 2016, the Russians hacked the Democratic committee’s servers—but not those of the Republican National Committee.

Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, said in mid-November, 2016, that Russia made “a conscious effort” to sway the results of the Presidential election by the hacking of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.

“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” said Rogers. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

On December 16, 2016, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Case #5: The Justice Department did not prosecute Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government—including President Obama—publicly condemned him as a traitor.     

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included: 

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. 

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Donald Trump

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

At a news conference in Doral, Florida on July 27, 2016, Trump publicly invited “Russia”—i.e., Vladimir Putin—to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

This was essentially treason—calling on a hostile foreign power to interfere directly in an American Presidential election. And it was seen as such by both Democrats and even Republicans:

  • “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
  • “I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics,” said former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a Clinton surrogate. “I just think that’s beyond the pale.”
  • Brendon Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. Among these were future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn  and future Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The discovery of such contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. 

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women. Among his admissions: That he had aggressively tried to bed a married woman, and “when you’re a star….you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.”

The story rocked the Trump campaign—and threatened to upend it. Then it was eclipsed by an even bigger story.

Eleven days before the November 8 election, FBI Director James Comey announced that he was re-opening an investigation he had closed on Hillary Clinton’s emails on a private server while she was Secretary of State.

That announcement erased widespread outrage over Trump’s unintended admissions of predatory behavior toward women and reversed Clinton’s growing lead in the polls.

Yet the Bureau has never issued similar statements about the continuing reports of close ties between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s history of investments in Russia.

To their shame, no one from the Obama administration—including the President himself—has apologized for failing to take action against these abuses.

And, to their shame, the news media has failed to indict them for their criminal negligence.

OBAMA AND THE FBI: CREATING PRESIDENT TRUMP–PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 9, 2019 at 12:06 am

There were at least five instances when the Obama administration could have disqualified Donald Trump as a Presidential candidate—or secured his indictment. Yet it did neither.

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for threats that he made—or inspired—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

Even Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, expressed fear of what might happen if Trump lost the election:

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Fergus Cullen

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said.

Trump even began encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Knowing that large numbers of angry—and possibly armed—Right-wingers planned to descend on polling places could only have had a chilling effect on untold numbers of Democratic voters. And this would have been especially true in heavily conservative states.

Both the USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act have statutes dealing with making terrorist threats against government institutions to influence their members. 

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President George W. Bush signing the USA Patriot Reauthorization Act of 2005

If Trump’s remarks did not violate one or both of those laws, certainly remarks made by his surrogates did.

Thus, the Justice Department could have cited the Patriot Act in indicting Trump and/or any number of his followers for “activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The Justice Department could have also demanded that the results of the election be invalidated on the basis that widespread voter and candidate intimidation played a massive role in it.

But of course this did not happen. 

Case #3 Making threats against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department.

  • On August 9, 2016, Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • Reacting to Trump’s “dog-whistle” threat against Clinton, Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) said: “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him.”

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Case #4: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate. 

In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

OBMAMA AND THE FBI: CREATING PRESIDENT TRUMP–PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 8, 2019 at 12:03 am

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So wrote Edmund Burke (1729-1797) the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher. And history has repeatedly proved him right. 

One such example was the rise of Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Fuhrer.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889–1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November, 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.” 

But that didn’t happen.

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Tried for and convicted of treason, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

At Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Disdaining armed force, he would win office by election—or intrigue. 

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues bore fruit: Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Future historians may one day write that what didn’t happen played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least five instances where the Justice Department of President Barack Obama could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, it chose to do nothing.

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Donald Trump

Case #1:  The Obama Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal.

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

But New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, pressed fraud claims against Trump—and forced the real estate mogul to settle the case out of court for $25 million on November 18, 2016.

There have been no press reports that the Justice Department investigated these cases to determine if Trump violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statutes.

If the Justice Department did not investigate these cases, it should have. And if he did violate the RICO statutes, he should have been indicted, even as a Presidential candidate or President-elect.

Even if an indictment had not produced a conviction, the mere bringing of one would have cast an unprecedented cloud over his candidacy—let alone his being sworn in as President.  

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for the series of threats that he made—directly and indirectly—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

Threatening  political opponents with violence is a crime under Federal law. Yet making threats against his Republican and Democratic opponents played a major role in Trump’s Presidential campaign.

  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.” 
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’” 
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”
  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner, wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.”

FAKE NEWS: PROTECTING TRUMP FROM THE TRUTH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 29, 2019 at 12:11 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of their time: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

In a May 22, 2018 CNN essay on Trump vs. the press, longtime political consultant David Gergen wrote:

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,’ the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump was 72 years old when this was written. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s a July 30, 2018 story on CNN: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

This focused on a tweetstorm Trump launched against Special Counsel Robert Mueller just two days before Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. 

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side-Podesta, Dossier?”

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Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libels as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.”

There were no “conflicts of interest” on Mueller’s part. And having been FBI director for 12 years (2001-2013) he had no desire to once again assume such a grueling burden at age 72.

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, described a meeting between himself and Trump: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

Appealing to Trump’s “better angels” was an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal and state courts. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor does he respect truth. The Washington Post has reported that, by March 17, 2019, Trump said or tweeted 9,179 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 11.6 lies a day. 

To expect that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

Yet the media—including CNN—refuses to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

Reporters who cover the White House are among the most knowledgeable their newspapers/networks have to offer. They see the President up close not only there but at campaign stops and state occasions. They quickly gain a sense of him as a man.

So it can’t be ignorance that leads so many of them to refrain from telling the truth. The answer has to be cowardice—by them and/or by their editors.

Newspapers fear Trump’s attacks on their integrity—and the loss of subscriptions. They fear the press will fall into even lower esteem than it’s now held. (An Ipsos poll shows almost a third of Americans agree the news media is “the enemy of the people.”)

For the owners of TV networks, there is an added fear of having their licenses challenged by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the airwaves. 

Regardless of the reason for this cowardice, it ill serves the journalism profession—and the country.

FAKE NEWS: PROTECTING TRUMP FROM THE TRUTH: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on May 28, 2019 at 12:18 am

On May 24, NBC News published a story under the headline: ‘TRUMP DOESN’T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND WHAT ‘TREASON’ MEANS.”

The article noted: “Once again on Thursday, President Donald Trump used the T-word, this time saying that former FBI officials who were involved in investigating his campaign committed treason.

“Asked at a White House event which of his adversaries he had in mind when he accused them of treason, he said, ‘A number of people. They have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.’ He then specified former FBI director James Comey, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and former FBI agent Peter Strzok.

“‘That’s treason. They couldn’t win the election, and that’s what happened.'”

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Donald Trump

The story goes on to point out that the Constitution does not define treason as being disloyal to the President—or a private citizen, which is what Trump was when he ran for President in 2016.

In Article III, Section 3, the United States Constitution states: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Enemy” means a country or an entity that has declared war or is in a state of open war against the United States.

United States Constitution

Although the story got its facts right, the headline gives a thoroughly misleading impression. By saying, “Trump doesn’t seem to understand….” it implies that he’s simply ignorant, and once someone explains the true meaning of treason to him, all will be well.

This is not only patently absurd, it is absolutely dangerous.

First of all, Trump considers himself “a very stable genius”—which in itself proves he’s the opposite of both. This is the sort of megalomania for which brutal dictators like Gaius Caligula were infamous.

Second, he hates being corrected, and those who have tried have been fired or quit after repeated frustration and harassment. John Kelly, his former chief of staff, said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown.” 

Third, he has no respect for anyone but himself, and none for the traditions that go with America’s highest office. He has called the White House “a real dump.” 

In addition, Trump has replaced Presidential dignity with infantile tantrums and personal attacks on virtually everyone on Twitter and in press conferences.

Fourth, Trump has always sought absolute control over everyone. As a private businessman, he forced his employees to sign NDAs—Non-Disclosure Agreements—to keep secret his acts of criminality and incompetence. As President, he has tried to continue that practice—even though it’s forbidden by law for Federal employees.

Fifth, he has always been a vindictive man. He and his companies have been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits. He has openly bragged about how enjoyable it is to “get even” with those who “screw you.”  He has “joked” that it would be nice if the United States had a “president-for-life”—like China. And he accused Democrats of “treason” for not applauding his 2018 State of the Union message.

Or take the headline in a May 24 article in Politico:  “GIULIANI APPEARS TO DEFEND SHARING A DOCTORED PELOSI VIDEO.”

The story outlines how Rudolph Giuliani, a former United States Attorney and now Trump’s chief legal protector, defended sharing a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—one that had been doctored to make her appear drunk and slurring her words.  

Rudloph Giuliani

“Nancy Pelosi wants an apology for a caricature exaggerating her already halting speech pattern,” Giuliani wrote on Twitter. “First she should withdraw her charge which hurts our entire nation when she says the President needs an ‘intervention’. ‘People who live in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.’”

Giuliani was referring to a remark Pelosi made on May 23.  The day before, Trump had stalked out of infrastructure talks with top congressional Democrats and railed against their investigations. 

“I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” said Pelosi in a press conference.

Pelosi’s words could be interpreted as a slap at Trump’s lack of maturity—or as an invitation for members of his Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. Under this, a President can be removed from office if he is mentally or physically unable to carry out his assigned duties.

Giuliani’s tweet, on the other hand, was pure slander. Including the doctored clip with his tweet, he taunted: “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.”

He later deleted the message.

To assert—as the Politico headline does—that Giuliani “appears” to be defending a lying video is to refuse to tell the full truth. He was defending—and re-posting—it. 

His attitude was: “If you’re going to criticize the President, I have the right to slander you.” 

But you wouldn’t have gotten that from the headline. 

Donald Trump has relentlessly accused the mainstream media of attacking him with “fake news.”

The only “fake news” has been those stories that sugarcoat the despicable behavior of the President and his closest associates.

UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY–IN GERMANY AND AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 12, 2019 at 12:13 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

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Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

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Thus, it isn’t just what happens that can influence the course of history. Often, it’s what doesn’t happen that has at least as great a result. 

Consider the case of Paul Manafort.

Manafort faced 18 counts brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

These included:

  • Filing false income tax statements.
  • Failing to file foreign bank account reports to disclose his control over his overseas accounts.
  • Bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy—by lying about Manafort’s income, debt and the nature of his real estate properties.

Mueller believed that Manafort could provide an insider’s account of the infamous June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Among the attendees: Manafort, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—along with Russian nationals offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

While Manafort managed Trump’s Presidential campaign—from March to September, 2016:

  • In July, the GOP gutted an amendment to its platform that advocated sending arms to Ukraine to defend against Russian aggression.
  • Later that month, WikiLeaks began dumping emails that Russia had stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
  • Manafort also received emails from Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, offering to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Manafort refused to cooperate with Mueller, then said he would. Then he lied to the FBI. Then Mueller dumped him as a witness.

Mueller asked Federal Judge T.S. Ellis to sentence Manafort from 20 to 24 years in prison and pay a fine between $50,000 and $24 million.

Instead, the Alexandria, Virginia-based judge sentenced Manafort to only 47 months in prison—one month less than four years.

Throughout the trial, Ellis had made no secret of his sympathy for Manafort:

  • Berating prosecutors for moving too slowly through their case.
  • Attacking one prosecutor for not looking at Ellis while the judge was talking.
  • Limiting the evidence the prosecutors could present.
  • Accusing one government lawyer of crying.

During the preliminary hearing, Ellis gave away the game: “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”

Thus, a former key supporter of a Right-wing President found himself saved by an equally Right-wing supporter of the same President.

The Weimar Republic in Germany faced a similar danger.

Defeat in World War I in 1918 led to the Kaiser’s abdication, a republic and a new constitution. 

Many Germans hated the Weimar Republic for signing the armistice in November, 1918. They resented the government for signing the Versallies Treaty, which imposed harsh conditions on Germany, although the Republic had been forced to by the Allies.

Right-wing terrorists assassinated 356 government politicians in the early years of the Republic. Among these were Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister, and Matthias Erzberger who had been finance minister.

Right-wing judges in their trials, many of whom preferred the Kaiser’s government, consistently gave these terrorists light sentences, or let them go free.

Adolf Hitler drew such a judge at his trial.

By March 7, 2019, the United States Senate had confirmed 89 Right-wing, Trump-nominated judges, including two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, 34 judges for the United States Courts of Appeals and 53 judges for the United States District Courts. 

What boded ill for the Weimar Republic bodes ill for the American Republic.

WHEN TYRANTS FALL, LOYALTY GOES SOUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2019 at 12:04 am

In April, 1945, Berlin, capital of the Third Reich, was under siege by the British and Americans from the West—and by the Russians from the East. 

On April 20—Adolf Hitler’s 56th birthday—his two most important ministers visited him for the last time. 

One minister was Hermann Goring, who still commanded the remnants of the once-powerful German air force, the Luftwaffe

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Hermann Goring

Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-15607 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de 

The other was Heinrich Himmler, absolute ruler of the Schutzstaffel, or “Protection Squadron.” His empire encompassed the black-uniformed secret police and a network of extermination camps throughout Eastern Europe.

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Heinrich Himmler 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R99621 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de 

In the ruins of the Reich Chancellery, Himmler and Goring swore unswerving loyalty to Hitler. 

Then, on April 23, Goring sent him a telegram. It proposed that, with Hitler trapped in Berlin, the Reichsmarshall, as his designated successor, should assume leadership of the Reich.

Hitler, furious, refused permission and ordered Goring’s arrest and execution. But Goring eluded the SS units and surrendered to the Americans.

Then, on April 28, the BBC reported that Himmler had tried to open surrender negotiations with the Western Allies.

Now Hitler screamed that Himmler—“the True Heinrich”—had committed the worst treachery he had ever known—and ordered his arrest. 

On April 29—one day before he committed suicide—Hitler declared Goring and Himmler traitors and stripped them of all their Nazi party and state offices.

Both would commit suicide by poison—Himmler before he could be tried as a war criminal, and Goring before being hanged as one.

Now, fast forward 73 years later.  

Attorney Michael Cohen had long been Donald Trump’s fixer. “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”

Trump executive Michael Cohen 012 (5506031001) (cropped).jpg

Michael Cohen

IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Then, in April, 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. 

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s law office, his home and his hotel room. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

(On August 21, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. In December 2018, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.)

While the media speculated that Cohen was expecting a Presidential pardon, Trump washed his hands of his former fixer: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

On July 25, Cohen offered a response in kind: A leaked tape of a phone conversation he had had with Trump before the latter became President.

It focused on buying the rights to a Playboy model’s story where she claimed to have had an affair with Trump years earlier.

Trump, furious, blasted Cohen in a tweet: “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped – can this be so? Too bad!” 

The revelation that he had been secretly taped by his own lawyer proved especially embarrassing for Trump. On March 4, 2017, he had accused President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping his phones during the 2016 election.

Without citing any evidence to back up his libelous claim, he tweeted: “Terrible! Just found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” 

Subsequent investigations by the Justice Department turned up no evidence to substantiate Trump’s assertion.

But after the release of the Cohen tape, worse was to come.

Omarosa Manigault had become a Trump favorite by generating huge ratings for his “reality series” The Apprentice during its first, seventh and 13th seasons on NBC. 

Omarosa Manigault

By Glenn Francis of PacificProDigital.com

Her behavior toward other contestants was marked by insults, egomania and ruthlessness. As a result, she soon became the “woman America loved to hate.” 

TV Guide included her in its 2013 list of “The 60 Nastiest TV Villains of All Time.”

During Trump’s Presidential campaign, she was named Director of African-American Outreach.  In an interview with Frontline, she boasted: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him.”

In January, 2017, Omarossa moved into the White House—where she became as antagonistic toward her government colleagues as she had those on The Apprentice

On December 12, 2017, she was forcibly removed from the White House grounds.

Trump tweeted her a goodbye: “Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success.” 

Apparently he didn’t expect her to attain that success at his expense.

On August 8, 2018, news broke that Omarosa had secretly taped Trump during several phone conversations in the White House. And that she planned to use these tapes to promote an upcoming—and highly critical—book on the President. 

The book—Unhinged-–was released on August 14, 2018.

TOO MANY WORMS, NOT ENOUGH JOURNALISTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2019 at 12:13 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of their time: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

On May 22, 2018, David Gergen penned a CNN essay on Trump vs. the press.

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,'” wrote Gergen, “the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump is 72 years old. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s this July 30, 2018 CNN story: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

Two days before Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, Trump launched a tweetstorm against Mueller.

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side—Podesta, Dossier?”

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Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libel as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.” 

After a meeting with Trump, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, publicly stated: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

So what is wrong with these comments? 

Like the saccharine that floods the airways at Christmastime, they reek of a deliberate suspension of reality.   

Appealing to Trump’s “better angels” on behalf of the news media is an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

This is a man who has said—proudly: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor does he have any respect for truth. The Washington Post has reported that during his first 298 days in the White House, Trump said or tweeted 1,628 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 5.5 lies a day. 

To expect—as Sulzberger apparently did—that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

Trump has furiously attacked the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as: 

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion
  • An incorruptible Justice Department.

Donald Trump isn’t crazy. Nor does he abuse power by well-meaning accident.

He knows exactly what he’s doing—and why. 

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

Yet the media—including CNN and New York Times—has refused to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

There can be only two motives for this:  

  1. Naivety, or 
  2. Cowardice. 

Either is totally unworthy of those claiming to defend the First Amendment.

Such reporters, editors and publishers should decide—now–to:

  1. Live up to the standards set by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin Bradlee during the Watergate crisis; or
  2. Go into a profession better-suited to their character—such as worm-farming.

“BLOOD FEUD”: POWER—AND IDEALISM—CORRUPT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2019 at 12:15 am

The 1983 TV mini-series, Blood Feud, chronicles the decade-long struggle between Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union.  

By 1963, the Mafia despairs of the increasing pressure of the Justice Department. At a swanky restaurant, several high-ranking members agree that “something” must be done.

[Although this scene is fictional, it’s clearly based on an infamous outburst of Carlos Marcello, the longtime Mafia boss of New Orleans. 

Carlos Marcello

[In 1961, Marcello was deported to his native Guatemala on orders by RFK. After illegally re-entering the country, he swore vengeance against the Attorney General.  

[In September, 1962, during a meeting with several mob colleagues, he flew into a rage when someone mentioned Kennedy: “Don’t you worry about that little Bobby sonofabitch. He’s going to be taken care of!”

[Marcello believed that the death of President Kennedy would render the Attorney General powerless. And he added that he planned to use a “nut” to do the job.]

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  

Blood Feud clearly implies that the Mafia was responsible. 

[The House Assassinations Committee investigated this possibility in 1978, and determined that Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss of New Orleans, had the means, motive and opportunity to kill JFK. But it could not find any conclusive evidence of his involvement.]

Even with the President dead, RFK’s Justice Department continues to pursue Hoffa. In 1964, he is finally convicted of jury tampering and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

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U.S. Department of Justice

Hoping to avoid prison, Hoffa offers future Teamsters support if RFK runs for President. To prove he can deliver, he tells Kennedy that the Teamsters have even penetrated the FBI.

[In March, 1964, Kennedy met with Hoffa on an airfield at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. 

[Kennedy spoke quietly with Hoffa. The Attorney General showed him a document, and Hoffa at times nodded or shook his head.

[Kennedy never revealed the reason for the meeting.  

[Gus Russo—author of Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK—writes that the reason might have been Dallas.  

[Perhaps, he speculates, RFK had wanted to look into Hoffa’s eyes while asking him: Did you have anything to do with the assassination? RFK had, in fact, done this with CIA Director John McCone almost immediately after his brother’s death.]

In Blood Feud, Kennedy confronts J. Edgar Hoover (Ernest Borgnine) and accuses him of illegally planting wiretaps in Mob hangouts all over the country.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

Hoover retorts that this had been the only way to obtain the prosecution-worthy intelligence Kennedy had demanded: “You loved that flow of information.  You didn’t want it to stop.”

Kennedy: Why did you keep the FBI out of the fight against the Mob for decades?

Hoover: “Every agency that came to grips with them got corrupted by their money.”

[So far as is known, Hoover never made any such confession. Historians continue to guess his reason for leaving the Mob alone for decades.]

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Ernest Borgnine as J. Edgar Hoover

RFK then mentions the CIA’s plots to employ the Mob to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro

[The agency had wanted to please President Kennedy, and the Mafia had wanted to regain its casinos lost to the Cuban Revolution. The role the Kennedy brothers played in the CIA’s assassination plots remains murky, and has been the subject of endless speculation.]

“The CIA, doing business with the Mob,” says Kennedy. “The FBI, leaking information to its enemies [the Teamsters].” Then, sadly: “I guess it’s true–everyone does business with everyone.”

[So far as is known, the FBI did not pass on secrets to the Teamsters. But during the 1970s, the Mafia  penetrated the Cleveland FBI office through bribes to a secretary. Several FBI Mob informants were “clipped” as a result.

In 1967, Hoffa goes to prison.  He stays there until, in 1971, President Richard Nixon commutes his sentence in hopes of gaining Teamsters’ support for his 1972 re-election.

Kennedy leaves the Justice Department in 1964 and is elected U.S. Senator from New York. In 1968 he runs for President. On June 5, after winning the California primary, he’s assassinated.  

Hoffa schemes to return to the presidency of the Teamsters–a post now held by his successor, Frank Fitzsimmons. He runs the union in a more relaxed style than Hoffa, thus giving the Mob greater control over its pension fund.

And the Mafia likes it that way.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant near Detroit.  He had gone there to meet with two Mafia leaders.

Forty-three years after the death of James R. Hoffa, and 50 years after that of Robert F. Kennedy:

  • Labor unions are a shadow of their former power.
  • The threat they once represented to national prosperity has been replaced by that of predatory  corporations like Enron and AIG.
  • The war RFK began on the Mafia has continued, sending countless mobsters to prison.
  • Millions of Americans who once expected the Federal Government to protect them from crime now believe the Government is their biggest threat.
  • The idealism that fueled RFK’s life has virtually disappeared from politics.

“BLOOD FEUD”: POWER–AND IDEALISM–CORRUPT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 15, 2019 at 12:08 am

In 1983, Blood Feud, a two-part TV mini-series, depicted the 11-year struggle between Robert F. Kennedy and James Riddle Hoffa. Although it took some dramatic liberties, its portrayal of the major events of that period remains essentially accurate.

Today, labor unions are a rapidly-vanishing species, commanding far less political influence than they did 50 years ago. As a result, young viewers of this series may find it hard to believe that labor ever held such sway, or that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union posed such a threat.

James Riddle Hoffa testifying before the Senate Labor Rackets Committee

And in an age when millions see “Big Government” as the enemy, they may feel strong reservations about the all-out war that Kennedy waged against Hoffa. 

Blood Feud opens in 1957, when Hoffa (Robert Blake) is a rising figure within the Teamsters. Kennedy (Cotter Smith) is chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. 

At first, Hoffa tries to ingratiate himself with Kennedy, telling him: “I know everybody who can help me and anybody who can hurt me.”

Robert Blake as James R. Hoffa

A wily Hoffa decides to parley Kennedy’s anti-corruption zeal into a path to power for himself. Via his attorney, Eddie Cheyfitz, he feeds Kennedy incriminating evidence against Dave Beck, president of the Teamsters. 

Confronted with a Senate subpoena, Beck flees the country—paving the way for Hoffa to assume the top position in the union. Hoffa believes he has solved two problems at once. 

“He’s got his scalp,” Hoffa tells an associate. “Now he can move on to other things while I run the union.” 

But Hoffa has guessed wrong—with fatal results. Realizing that he’s been “played” by Hoffa, a furious Kennedy strikes back.  

He orders increased surveillance of Hoffa and his topmost associates. He subpoenas union records and members of both the Teamsters and the Mafia to appear before his committee in public hearings.  

And he tries to enlist the aid of legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Ernest Borgnine). But Hoover wants no part of a war against organized crime, whose existence he refuses to admit.

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s confrontations with Hoffa grow increasingly fierce. In open hearings, Kennedy accuses Hoffa of receiving kickbacks in the name of his wife. Hoffa damns him for “dirtying my wife’s name.” 

Kennedy secures an indictment against Hoffa for hiring a spy to infiltrate the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. He’s so certain of a conviction that he tells the press he’ll “jump off the Capitol building” if Hoffa beats the rap.

But Hoffa’s lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams (Jose Ferrer) puts Kennedy himself on the witness stand. There he portrays Kennedy as a spoiled rich man who’s waging a vendetta against Hoffa.

Hoffa beats the rap, and offers to send Kennedy a parachute. But he jokingly warns reporters: “Hey, Bobby, you better have it checked. I don’t trust myself!”

By 1959, Robert Kennedy’s work as chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee is over. But not his determination to send Teamsters President James Hoffa to prison.

Cotter Smith as Robert Kennedy

Throughout 1960, he manages the Presidential campaign for his brother, John F. Kennedy (Sam Groom). By a margin of only 100,000 votes, JFK wins the election.

Hoffa thinks that his troubles are over, that “Bobby” will move on to other pursuits and forget about the Teamsters.

Hoffa is partly right: Kennedy moves on to another job. But it’s the office of United States Attorney General.  

JFK, needing someone in the Cabinet he can trust completely, browbeats Robert into becoming the the nation’s top cop.

For Hoffa, it’s a nightmare come true.

As Attorney General, Kennedy no longer has to beg J. Edgar Hoover to attack organized crime. He can—and does—order him to do so.

Throughout the country, the Mafia feels a new heat as FBI agents plant illegal electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their innermost sanctums. Agents openly tail mobsters—and send them to prison in large numbers.

And Kennedy sets up a special unit, composed of topflight prosecutors and investigators, to go after just one man: James Riddle Hoffa. The press comes to call it the “Get Hoffa” squad.

Hoffa continues to beat federal prosecutors in court. But he believes he’s under constant surveillance by the FBI, and his nerves are starting to crack. 

Convinced that the FBI has bugged his office, he literally tears apart the room, hoping to find the bug. But he fails to do so.

What he doesn’t know is he’s facing a more personal danger—from one of his closest associates. 

He tells a trusted colleague, Edward Grady Partin (Brian Dennehy) how easy it would be to assassinate Kennedy with a rifle or bomb.

Later, Partin gets into a legal jam—and is abandoned by the Teamsters. Hoping to cut a deal, he relays word to the Justice Department of Hoffa’s threats against the Attorney General.

Now working for the Justice Department, Partin sends in reports on Hoffa’s juror-bribing efforts in yet another trial. Hoffa again beats the rap—but now Kennedy has the insider’s proof he needs to put him away for years.  

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